Lucas Viveiros | The Avro Post
The Toronto Maple Leafs fell short and failed to move on to the second round on Wednesday, after a painful defeat to the Boston Bruins 7-4.
Game 7 started with so much promise for the Buds after a seesaw first period showed the Maple Leafs holding their own against a tough Bruins team on home ice.
Toronto held a one goal lead twice in the opening frame, but failed to hang onto it after 20 minutes of play.
Veteran forward Patrick Marleau was able to tip home a Jake Gardiner point shot just over two minutes into the game, giving the Leafs the icebreaker as well as the momentum.
The lead would be surrendered in a hurry however, as shortly two minutes after Marleau’s goal, Boston rookie Jake DeBrusk tailed his own power play marker.
The back and forth period would continue following another goal from Marleau, and a quick response from Game 6 scratched forward Danton Heinen.
Leaf killer Patrice Bergeron was also able to tuck one past Frederik Andersen with shortly under 40 seconds to play in the period, giving the Bruins a 3-2 lead heading to the locker room.
The middle frame belonged to the Buds, as Toronto played inspired hockey, mainly through contributions from a pair of rookies to take the lead.
First, young d-man Travis Dermott scored his first career Stanley Cup Playoff goal on a beauty of a shot which eluded goaltender Tuukka Rask, tying the game at threes.
Speedy youngster Kasperi Kapanen also found the scoresheet in the second period, blowing by Brad Marchand shorthanded, and outweighing Tuukka Rask through a set of skilled dekes.
In coach Babcock’s words, “our team was set up perfectly heading into the third period” as the Leafs obtained a 4-3 lead and had the Bruins on the ropes.
Boston came through in the third period meaning business, and pushed back immediately, as Torey Krug struck a minute and ten seconds in to tie the game 4-4.
This brought the life and energy back into the TD Garden, as fans began to believe this was the Bruins game to win, and the ghost of 2013 would enter into the Maple Leafs’ minds.
The doubt was visible on the Maple Leafs faces as the period wore on, as Toronto stopped skating and seemed on their heals for the remainder of the game.
Boston followed up Krug’s goal with multiple high pressure shifts, and it eventually payed off courtesy a power move from Jake DeBrusk.
DeBrusk took the puck from nearly his own end, and skated with strength and speed through the neutral zone, outmuscling Jake Gardiner and squeaking a shot through Frederik Andersen’s legs.
With that the Bruins took the 5-4 lead, and never looked back.
Boston would add the insurance marker via David Pastrnak, and an empty netter from Brad Marchand to win the game 7-4.
Toronto’s defense was simply not good enough to compete with one of the best teams in the NHL for the length of a seven game series, and will be a top priority to upgrade once the offseason begins.
There were a number of encouraging signs for the Leafs however, as Toronto pushed the Bruins to seven games after being down 3-1 in the series, received multiple standout performances from Mitch Marner, and got superb goaltending from Frederik Andersen in a number of games in the postseason.
Certainly having Nazem Kadri in the lineup for the three games he missed would have helped, some production from Auston Matthews wouldn’t have hurt, and the addition of some physicality to match and push back against the mean Bruins could have went a long way.
All together this was a successful season for the Maple Leafs, as they set career records in franchise wins, home wins, and points in a season, but there’s no doubt expectations will be raised come September.
The Maple Leafs are now expected to be a perennial playoff team, and will have to be ready to push past the first round of the playoffs next April.
Image from the CBC.